I’m working with three very different secondary schools at the moment (just started!) and really enjoying it. One in Rathkeale, one in Limerick and one in Bridgetown, Wexford. As I said to one of the teachers, this gives me an opportunity to go back to teaching (which I used to do, way back when, and loved) but I get to do all the good bits and have none of the accompanying heartache of the administration, reports, more administration and reports… Thank you Poetry Ireland for these opportunities!
It also makes you think (as it should) about the way we pass on skills, the way we pass on the elements of the craft of writing. When I first looked at exploring fictional writing I attended a course given by Siobhan Parkinson, in the Smurfit Business School, called Write That Novel. I had searched through loads of different courses for one that would deal with the different aspects of writing that I felt I needed to look at: creating characters, writing dialogue, narrative voice, point of view, plotting, setting, genre, structure, editing and the rest ! When I saw the course outline of Siobhan’s course I had no hesitation in applying for it. And it was all that I could have wanted and more.
I was not looking for a course that wanted me to explore my inner self, get in touch with my feelings, write stream of consciousness things .. I wanted to understand the craft. And while I cannot claim to understand it fully yet, I have the framework and that is what I was looking for. Uber thanks to Siobhan!
The rest was of course up to the individuals in the course. It was up to us to practice, to write and then to write some more. And to discover whether writing was something we could do. That is not of course a given. In the same way as we would not all become artists if we were given the techniques of painting, drawing, sculpture, etching or anything else. I certainly wouldn’t.
Another thing I have to be grateful to that course for is the fact that our writing group, The Crabapples, emerged from that course. Eleven years later we are still meeting!
In working with Secondary school students what I love to see are the gems that emerge. The small beautiful pearls of writing that are as individual as the students themselves. Made even more beautiful when they come from the pens of young people who felt they could not write. Did not like to write. That’s the reward for me. With permission I hope to post some of their work once completed but will leave you with one line that has stuck in my head. One group in Limerick were working on poems on the issue of child marriage and in one of the poems this line emerged: I wanted to be small and free.
Simple words, beautifully put.
As yet I have no pictures of the schools so, apropos of nothing (and because I do not like posts without images), here is a picture of Old Greg .. a dog who found his way to our farm, terrified, thin and not well – and just look at him now. We are glad to have him.